By Kuhl, Nick on February 25, 2014.
“There are 19 producing oil/gas wells within your community.”
Bob Willard, a senior adviser with Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), provided that message to a full Yates Memorial Centre audience on Monday night, as Lethbridge city council met as the Community Issues Committee to discuss urban drilling within city limits.
Willard was one of the specialists on a guest panel invited to provide analysis and answer questions from council members and from the public. He discussed eight critical criteria the AER uses when applications are submitted, including an information base, documented science, applications and dispute resolution.
“In this province, over the last 75 years, the energy regulator has got a very extensive database. All companies do a lot of pre-planning, but it’s critical that those companies engage local landowners, local residents, local authorities, to understand the local needs; to address misinformation early,” said Willard, adding there are already about 650 oil and gas wells in urban centres in the province.
“Every well is different; every land use situation can be different.”
Moderated by Deputy Mayor Ryan Parker, the meeting was designed to provide an opportunity for citizens to obtain information and gain education around the issue of oil drilling within city limits. Panel members were chosen for their knowledge and expertise in the defined topic areas and each began with brief presentations.
Douglas Schmitt, Canadian Research Chair in Rock Physics at the University of Alberta, talked about drilling processes, including how fracking is achieved with the help of cement, surface casing and steel casing. The integrity and reliability of those products is sometimes where the risks can arise, he said.
“There’s things that could go wrong, but if this is properly done it should seal that borehole in,” Schmitt said, adding contamination of groundwater and the risk of natural seismicity also exist.
“Can events be felt? From the hydraulic fracturing itself – probably not. So far no events have actually been felt from hydraulic fracturing in any great extent.”
Brenda Ponde with Alberta Energy discussed how tenure and how mineral leases are awarded in the province. She said there are more than 92,000 active agreements in the province.
“Our tenured process is a reiterant cycle that ensures continued activity for Alberta,” Ponde said. “We make sure that our processes and decisions are fair, transparent and consistent Alberta’s tenure system is actually world renowned.”
Dr. Brent Friesen of Alberta Health Services talked about that organization’s role in protecting the public health, while Jeff Greene, the City of Lethbridge’s director of planning and development, explained how rapid growth on the westside has lead to a re-examination of how urban development and oil production will find a way to co-exist.
Lethbridge Fire Chief Brian Cornforth was the final panel member to present. He outlined how the city’s emergency personnel would respond to a potential industrial fire or release at a site.
Since the capacity at the Yates was reached, the CIC meeting had overflow seating with a live video feed at city hall’s council chambers next door, while it was also streamed live on the City of Lethbridge website. About 700 people attended at the Yates and as an overflow crowd at city hall.
Due to meeting running behind schedule, the council question period and questions from the public took place later into the night. The tone of most expressed serious concerns about the prospect of drilling in the city. The meeting’s full video will uploaded to the City’s website at http://www.lethbridge.ca today.
You must be logged in to post a comment.